While the ‘multi-use’ nature of Winslow’s Home on Delmar is hard to wrap your mind around, it’s a wonderful place to have a meal. Equal part hardware store, restaurant and neighborhood general store, it grows on you more with every visit.
For one thing, it’s a charming throwback to the days when every urban neighborhood had small, personal shops that carried household objects for all members of the family: dish towels and Pyrex for mom, hammers and washers for dad, and toys for the kids. And that is the point here: Everything has been simplified, from the rustic old-wood decor to its fresh-from-the-farm comfort food menu.
Opened a couple of years ago, Winslow’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a homey, walk-up-to-the-counter style. About a dozen wooden tables are scattered among the aisles of housewares and gardening supplies. Featured foods are enumerated on chalkboards, and baked goodies are displayed on a counter. There is a dinner special that runs for about a week, and a host of inventive sandwiches, flatbreads and salads that rely on what’s fresh at the farm (the owners here have a farm in the outlying area).
What’s new is the chef, Cary McDowell, who is known for his delicious comfort food at the former Revival and as onetime partner in The Crossing. He now can be watched working his magic in the open kitchen behind the register here. It’s a great match: a setting that predates big box stores and meals that predate fast food and agribusiness.
Our repast started with flatbread topped by soft, creamy ricotta cheese, delicate spinach leaves and roasted squash and beets ($9). It was a big serving, cut into eight squares, and its success relied on the quality of the ingredients and their pairing. The veggies were delicious and very pretty sitting on the white cheese. The base, almost a pizza dough, was not paper thin but a little bready, which added enough substance to make it viable as a vegetarian dinner entree.
A couple of bowls of chickpea and chard soup ($4.50) were delicious—just like mom might make. The broth was rich with earthy flavors from the Swiss chard, and the beans gave you something to sink your teeth into.
That week’s special was roasted chicken with cauliflower and spinach ($18). Even before reading that it came from Farrar Farm, it was obvious that this was no hormone-pumped poultry. The half-chicken brought to the table was small and beautifully browned, with very crisp skin properly flavored with salt and pepper. It sat on a delicious bed of creamy cauliflower puree and was topped by baby spinach leaves, making for a very attractive presentation. The cauliflower was noticeably salty, but I find chicken benefits from strong accompanying flavors.
A grilled cheese sandwich ($7.50) was very adult, made with Fontina and white cheddar on dense, crusty bread that had been sprinkled with herbs. That final touch gave the sandwich flavor beyond its cheesy fat content. Also on the plate was a generous serving of mesclun greens tossed with house-made lemon vinaigrette. The dressing was strongly flavored by the lemon, another good culinary choice, given the potential blandness of warm cheese.
The dessert possibilities here are endless and a little agonizing. All homemade, there are scones, muffins, pies, brownies, cookies and cakes—lined up in full view, just to make things interesting. We settled on a brownie, cranberry upside-down cake and apple-caramel pie.
The brownie, very large and with powdered sugar on top, was chocolatey, but a little too loose inside, almost like eating raw dough. The pie was beautiful, with a delicious, buttery crust—no shortening here. It had a granola-type topping and was very sweet. The cake was also good, if a little dry, with the tart cranberry flavor dominating.
Winslow’s Home, a few blocks west of the Loop, is a neighborhood gem. I respect the back-to-basics concept, and having McDowell onboard only makes the place more attractive. While we were there, people came in to pick up food to-go or sit down for a light meal, greeting the staff warmly, and likewise being greeted by them. This place brings more than a little bit of the personal back to dining out. Bravo.
Roasted Chicken with Spinach & Cauliflower – Winter 2009
From Chef Cary McDowell of Winslow’s Home & Farm
This is a simple dish we prepare that accentuates the freshness of “real chicken”. I buy chicken from several local producers. Since long-term shelf life is no concern for me, I don’t have to buy “food-service chicken.” These contain various solutions for preservation and shelf life extension, which always gets in the way of the bird’s natural flavor.
For 4 people, you will need:
2 (3 lb) chickens
(*Have the butcher cut them in half using this verbiage: “Could you please cut these birds in half, leaving a skin-on airline breast, tenderloin intact, boneless thigh with leg attached? ” This will work for most butchers. If you are feeling adventurous, have the butcher pack the carcasses to go for making chicken broth)
3 tbsp canola oil (for cooking) Kosher salt (for seasoning)
Black pepper (for seasoning)
1 lb young spinach
3 heads cauliflower (for Puree—see recipe below)
1 cup chicken broth
How to make:
1. Lay chicken skin-side up on a piece of butcher paper (makes clean up a lot easier), and season aggressively with salt and pepper.
2. Add oil to a smoking hot, oven-ready skillet, and place chicken skin-side down. Cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until skin is golden brown.
3. When skin is golden brown (like fried chicken), place in 375 degree oven until the chicken is cooked through, usually 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Remove chicken, turn over on a bed of herbs or wire rack and season the skin with a little more salt. This will ensure the skin stays crispy. If desired, deglaze the pan with chicken broth, finishing with a little butter to thicken the liquid, which can be served as sauce.
5. Place warm cauliflower on a serving plate, add a handful of uncooked spinach on top, then place the cooked chicken on. Drizzle sauce if you like.
3 heads cauliflower
½ stick unsalted butter (more if you like)
1 cup milk
1. Trim outer green leafs away from heads, and discard. Slice heads, including stems, length-wise.
2. Heat a tall, lidded, straight-sided pot with olive oil. Add a layer of kosher salt, a few turns of a pepper mill, and cut cauliflower. Cover, and ensure the heat is “medium.” You are trying to cook the cauliflower slowly and controlled in its own juices until it’s fully cooked and turns to “mush.”
3. Place “mush” in a food processor, and add milk and butter. Run until it resembles mashed potatoes.